Piassek's Plays: Saturday Stakes Action at Thistledown

Penelope P. Miller/America's Best Racing

In his regular gambling blog, John Piassek presents his top picks for the upcoming weekend in horse racing, offering betting options at different budget levels. Piassek’s Plays is brought to you by Horseplayers.com, the official online qualifying site of the Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) and National Horseplayers Championship (NHC). Horseplayers.com offers low-cost feeders every day and BCBC and NHC qualifiers every weekend, and it’s the only site where you can qualify for the $1 million BCBC. It’s free to sign up – click here to get information about registering and how to enter contests.

Piassek has contributed to the horse racing sites The Racing Biz and Danonymous Racing and worked at Tioga Downs, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga Race Course. He joined America’s Best Racing in January 2021.

Saturday, June 26

Thistledown, Race 8, $250,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes, post time 4:14 p.m. ET

weekend Television schedule

Friday, June 25: 12:30 p.m.-6 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, June 26: 12:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, June 27: 1 p.m.-5:30 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on TVG

#2 Crystal Ball: This lightly-raced 4-year-old filly looks like she's on the verge of a breakthrough race. Last year, she just missed winning the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, losing in a photo finish to Paris Lights. After a disappointing race in the Alabama Stakes, she was put away for the rest of her 3-year-old season.

She's a perfect 2-for-2 this year, having won allowance races at Santa Anita Park and Churchill Downs. She showed a lot of heart last out, battling on the inside and repelling a challenge for a 1 1/2-length win. This will be her first start for trainer Rodolphe Brisset and jockey Luis Saez. Without much speed drawn to her inside, Saez should be able to get her into an ideal early position: in front, and on the rail. From there, she should have little trouble repelling her foes.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$8 to win on 2

$2 exacta, 2 with 1

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$15 to win on 2

$5 exacta, 2 with 1, 4 ($10 total)

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$20 to win on 2

$10 exacta, 2 with 1, 4 ($20 total)

$5 exacta, 1, 4 with 2($10 total)

Thistledown, Race 9, $500,000 Grade 2 Ohio Derby, post time 5:04 p.m ET

#10 Masqueparade: Racing fans love flashy performances by up-and-coming 3-year-olds. They fill the imagination with the promise of bigger things to come. Whenever a 3-year-old by a big-name trainer such as Chad Brown or Todd Pletcher wins an allowance, they're often stamped as a prospect for major stakes down the road.

Masquerade was extremely impressive in his last start. Breaking from the outside post in a two-turn first level allowance race at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve undercard, he engaged with the leaders while racing wide throughout. Despite the loss of ground, he drew off in the stretch, powering away to a dominant 11-length win. He earned an Equibase Speed Figure of 108 in that race, which is not only the best last-out figure in the field, it's one of the highest numbers any 3-year-old male has earned this year. While he's once again drawn a tough post, he's shown that he can overcome bad draws. 

Despite that big victory, Masqueparade is 8-1 on the morning line for the Ohio Derby. He's trained by Al Stall, who is a very capable horseman having an excellent year in the Midwest. However, I can't help but feel that, if he was trained by a more "marquee" trainer, this horse would be getting more respect. I think he'll get bet off his morning line, and may only go off somewhere between 3-1 and 5-1. Still, considering that last race, that would be an excellent value.

Strategy on a $10 Budget

$8 to win on 10

$2 exacta, 10 with 1

Strategy on a $25 Budget

$20 to win on 10

$5 exacta, 10 with 1

Strategy on a $50 Budget

$36 to win on 10

$7 exacta, 10 with 1, 5 ($14 total)

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